Belle shares why walking means so much to her
We talked to Belle from Gilstead, Bradford who is visually impaired and has spent her whole life enjoying Yorkshire on foot. She shares her love for walking with us and how it has changed her life for the better.
Can you start with a bit about yourself?
Yeah, I'm Belle. I'm 23 and I live in Gilstead, which is about a 25-minute walk from here. I’ve spent my whole life in Yorkshire. I think it’s beautiful with its heritage sites, stunning scenery and so much greenery. Then, there are all the fantastic buildings.
We’re in Saltaire at the moment, do you walk here often?
I love Saltaire because it's just a beautiful heritage site. I think the park that we’re in now is one of my favourite places to walk. Me and my mum come here. We're both visually impaired and it's so flat here with easy access, plus, my dog loves it. There are also really accessible cafés as well.
Where else do you walk?
There are probably not many places, big places, in West Yorkshire, that I've not walked through at some point. Some walks are easier than others and some pose different challenges. I think the best way to find out what those challenges are is to walk through an area and be part of that community.
How often do you go for walks?
I commute by walking about two or three times a week and then I walk for leisure as well. And I walk my dog every day.
Why is walking your preferred way to commute?
When you're on a train, on a bus or in a car, you’re going from A to B and you're not really thinking about the journey, whereas walking makes you appreciate the little things like the birds and the sound of the water. I just think it's a really beautiful way to get to and from places.
Walking's one of the best things you can do for your mental health, as well as your physical health. It gives you time to just think, enjoying the experience and seeing new things.
Do you find it difficult walking as someone who’s visually impaired?
Getting out of the house can be quite challenging if you are visually impaired. There are always things that are going to be difficult and pose barriers, like street cafes and A-boards if I don't see them. But, it's about raising awareness, talking to people and opening a conversation, letting them know that these things can pose a barrier for me accessing my local area. I’ve found that people are really receptive and want to make it a better place for everyone.
How has walking been of benefit to you?
I think walking's one of the best things you can do for your mental health, as well as your physical health. It gives you time to just think, enjoying the experience and seeing new things. I'd recommend walking to anyone who can get out and about in the local area because you get to see new things that you might not see if you're travelling in a car, on the bus or using the train. I think it's just a really great way to enjoy your surroundings and it really does make you appreciate the commute more.
What else is great about walking?
It's just a really good way to clear your head and get started for the day, or finish it. I'd recommend walking to anyone wanting to get around their local area because it's a great way to see new things and enjoy the local scenery. And then there's the social side as well. You get to chat to people that you ordinarily wouldn't.
Do you walk with your family?
My mum and dad are both visually impaired, so we've never had a car growing up because they weren’t able to drive. My family have walked everywhere our whole lives and it's just something that we always enjoyed as a family, even though it's something we've had to do.
It’s meant I've become really familiar with the local area, and it’s probably part of the reason why I didn't want to leave the area and still live here.
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